STEELE 'O MY HEART, PART XVI: STEELE 'O MY HEART
By: Susan Deborah Smith
First printed: More Red Holt Steele #13/14
Summary: Time comes for Remington to face his past.
Disclaimer: This "Remington Steele" story is not-for-profit and is purely for entertainment purposes. The author and this site do not own the characters and are in no way affiliated with "Remington Steele," the actors, their agents, the producers, MTM Productions, the NBC Television Network or any station or network carrying the show in syndication, or anyone in the industry.
It was the nature of the business that Remington Steele Investigations could pull down an easy ten or twelve thousand a week, some weeks, and in others just meet operating expenses. It was the nature of Laura Holt Steele to prudently invest both agency funds and her own so that there would never be a shortfall. And such was the stature of Remington Steele Investigations that if the Steeles should happen to be away for, say, a month at a time, many people who needed to hire them found that their cases could wait a bit.
Thus, on extra-short notice, Mr. and Mrs. Steele packed themselves up and took themselves off to Ireland, leaving in Mildred's capable hands the skip-tracing that was the bread and butter of the business.
They spent two nights in London to recuperate from the flight, two nights in the honeymoon suite they hadn't been able to enjoy on their previous visit. The great oval tub was put to good use, and the elegant four-poster bed, and the sofa in the drawing room, and the rug before the fireplace. Laura barely had time to slip out and shop.They took the night-boat to Dublin, and made love in the first class compartment of the train.
Once on the shores of Ireland, however, a transformation came over Laura's husband. He was cool and collected as they assembled their luggage and loaded the rental car, but the door he opened for Laura was on the driver's side; he got in on the other and was entirely silent for a hundred miles.
They were slow miles, over pretty roads, but well before dark, Laura began looking for signs on the highstreets. At last, in another quaint little town, she found what looked like a nice hotel. Pulling up to the curb, she consulted her guidebook: two stars, good food, clean, comfortable lodging. She got out of the car.
"Hey," she called, tapping on his window.
Startled, he looked out at her and rolled down the window. "Need some cash?" he asked.
He'd lost track of time, wasn't sure where they were. He thought she was just tanking up the car.
Laura felt that familiar wave of compassion for him; it seemed to hit her hardest in Ireland, so intimately connected to the land did his pain seem. He'd lived worse in London, a kid on his own, but it was in Ireland that people had done him harm, people he didn't like to talk about.
She leaned on the door. "Mr. Steele," she said softly. "We're calling it quits for the night."
"Did you want me to drive?" he asked.
"No." Opening the door, she reached in and took his hand. "I want you to come in and have a nice dinner and get some rest."
"Rest?" he said.
She handed him the overnight case in which their essentials were packed.
"You're the one who ought to rest," he went on, following her to the door. "I'll drive awhile; you curl up in the back seat."
"I want to sleep in a bed," she said. "Do you know where we are?"
He looked around. "Crest Hotel?"
"Aye, welcome to the Crest," said a young man from the stairway. He took his place behind the desk. "What can we do for you?"
"Room for the night," said Laura. "Double bed, hot water. Nice dinner."
"All of that we have indeed. Let me have your signature here in the book. Fifty pounds, your supper and your breakfast included."
"Fine," said Laura, signing in. "We've been driving all day."
"It's the weather for it. Ah, from California, are you? Quite a change for you, then."
"Yes," said Laura. "But I love Ireland."
"Do you now? It casts a spell, and that's for sure. Room 7, overlooking our lovely village. Let me have your bags."
He shouldered the case and led them upstairs. The room was small, but nicely furnished; the bath was right next door.
"You're our only guests tonight," said their host. "Whenever you're ready, come down and have a look at the menu and let us know what you'll be favoring for supper."
"Thank you," said Laura, closing the door behind him. She sat down on the bed.
Remington stood and gazed out the window.
"You all right?" she asked.
"A little jet-lagged, possibly," he said.
"Come over here," she said. Kicking off her shoes, she pulled him down on the bed with her. "God, it's good to stretch out." She smiled at her toes as she wriggled them.
"Would you rather I stopped talking?" she asked.
He turned his head on the pillow. "How wretched have I been to you?" he asked.
She smoothed the hair off his forehead. "Not wretched at all," she answered. "You've just been very quiet."
"I know you were looking forward to a more lively companion."
"No." She held him to her. "It's just stage-fright," she said.
Awhile later, she was startled by a light tapping at the door. "Mrs. Steele?" a voice called softly.
Laura squinted at her watch and got off the bed.
A woman her own age stood in the corridor. "It's after eight, Mrs. Steele, and I don't want to be rushing you, but we're wondering what you might like for your dinner."
"After eight?" Laura repeated. "Wait, I'll come down." She got back into her shoes and went downstairs.
"I'm Maureen Cleary," the woman explained. "You'll have spoken to my husband Tom a bit earlier. We thought you might be tired from the driving and lost track of the time."
"Yes," said Laura. "I'm afraid I'm not entirely used to your roads."
"Aye, not from Los Angeles where they have all them freeways."
"Actually, I'm making better time here than I have sometimes trying to get downtown." Laura winked.
Mrs. Cleary smiled. "Here's tonight's menu, if you'd like to pick something out."
"Okay." Laura looked it over.
"Would you be wanting to take it upstairs to Mr. Steele?"
"Oh, no. He's asleep. What about this?" She pointed to the #4 dinner.
"For the two of you?"
"Sure. That'll be fine. How long?"
"Not very. By the time you get him down here, we'll be bringing you your soup."
Laura went back upstairs. Remington was still sleeping the sleep of the just; she shook him by the shoulder.
"You want some dinner?" she asked.
"What time is it?"
"Quarter after eight."
He sat up. "Where are we?" he asked.
"Crest Hotel, Kilmaren. I just couldn't drive anymore," she explained. "And I thought it would be better if we arrived looking fresh and rested."
"Yes, of course. Although," he added, putting his arms around her, "you look as lovely as ever." He pulled her to him and kissed her, just between her breasts.
Laura sighed a little and pulled him to his feet. "They're making dinner for us," she said.
"Naturally." He followed her to the dining room, where they ate a quiet dinner.
Laura spread the maps on the table and tried to determine where they were.
"Closer than I thought," she said. "We can sleep late."
"You should have told me when you were tired; I could have driven."
"I kind of like the idea of driving you to your past," she told him. "After all these years, trying to get you to tell me your real name..."
"Male Child Daniels, isn't it?" he said.
"Remington Steele," she replied. "Anyway, I don't mind."
He nodded and stared past her into nothing.
Laura had known him entirely too long to worry a great deal about this kind of mood; she was willing to cajole him if he liked, or to ignore him. Dinner over, they went back upstairs; she washed her hair; he lay on the bed. Dressed in warm flannel, she crawled in under the covers; after awhile, he undressed and got in beside her.
Remington was reasonably chipper in the morning. They ate a leisurely breakfast, packed up again and hit the road. From then on, he was silent again, more so, even than the day before. Laura could imagine what his nerves were like; she'd been shaking, literally for days, after her father's impromptu visit.
Every once in a while, she reached over to take his hand. He held it for awhile, and kissed it, and stared out the window.
Finally, they reached the turning in the road that led away from the village of Slieveford and up to New Cottage, home of the Riordans. Laura pulled over.
"Well," she said.
"Well," he agreed.
"Any last words?"
He drew a deep breath. "I don't know what's going to happen, but whatever it is--"
He didn't finish; instead, he pulled her to him, kissed her and held her close.
"It'll be all right," she whispered.
"Will it?" he asked.
He sat back in the seat. "Of course it will. Perfectly fine."
She put the car in gear and drove on, following the map. The Riordans' farm stood northeast of the town, up a winding road through pretty, hilly countryside.
Away to the left, something caught his eye. "Is that it?" he asked.
New Cottage was rather a grand house, compared to many they'd seen. Of two full stories, it stood back from the road behind a low stone wall. Hollyhocks were turning brown and wilting, although some fall bulbs were just coming into bloom.
Remington looked at the house and felt a rush of anger, remembering cramped dwellings and street living and people who didn't want him. Then he remembered that Laura had lived all her life in a neat house behind a picket fence, and she'd often been as lonely as he.
Laura parked the car across the road. "Want me to wait?"
"No," he said. "No. You're the engineer of this moment, and my lovely bride. I want you beside me."
She patted his hand. "Okay."
They piled out of the car. He offered his arm, and they crossed the road and went through the gate. They could hear a dog barking.
As Remington raised his hand to the bell, the door swung open. A tall woman, her black hair going gray, stood on the threshold.
"Remington Steele?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied.
"God, and wouldn't I have known you anywhere!" she exclaimed. "You're the very picture of Mary herself. Ma!" she called. "Ma, they've come!" Turning back to them, she added, "I'm your Aunt Christine."
He shook her hand. "A pleasure," he said.
"Ah, to hell with it," she said, and threw her arms around him. When she stepped back, she said, "And this must be the bride."
"My wife, Laura."
"Christine Flynn," said Aunt Christine. "You're the detective. And lovely as the dawn, too. Ma! Well, come in, why don't you?"
"Christine," said a soft voice.
Aunt Christine dutifully stepped aside to reveal an elderly lady with snowy hair. She stood straight, though she relied on a cane, and looked very closely at the man on her doorstep.
"Remington," she said.
Held never known what it was like to look at someone and know them to be blood, to see his eyes in another face. He staggered.
"Grandmother," he answered. Recovering, he bent to embrace her.
When she drew back, her cheeks were wet with tears. He fumbled for his handkerchief, but when she took it, she dried his eyes instead.
"Sure, and if you're not the very likeness of my poor dead girl," she sighed.
They gazed at each other for a long moment. Then Mrs. Riordan shook her head.
"Well, then," she said. "What kind of manners have you been taught, and myself, as well, to leave your pretty bride on the step in this draft. Come in, will you, come in!"
They followed her into the warm house.
"You're Laura, aren't you?" said Mrs. Riordan. She took both her hands and pressed them. "Your picture hardly does you justice, good as it was. Will you have tea? Are you hungry? You've driven all the way from Shannon, have you?"
"Dublin," said Remington. "Laura drove."
"All that way yourself? You're a brave girl, then, I should have known from the way he described you. Come in, come straight in. Christine! What have I done with those cakes?"
"Ma," said Christine. "Why don't you sit down, and I'll fetch them in."
"Thank you, girl. Here. Let me have your coats."
When they were properly settled, Mrs. Riordan poured the tea.
Conversation was pleasant and desultory, but Aunt Christine soon set down her cup.
"I must be getting home," she said, with a glance at her watch. "Remington, it's grand to see you, and Laura, a pleasure 'tis, indeed."
He rose as she went to the door.
"You'll be seeing me again soon, don't you know," she added. "There'll be grand feasting in these parts, but we'll let you settle yourselves first." She winked. "Too many Riordans at a time'll send you fleeing back to California, don't you know."
The door banged shut behind her. Through the window, Laura could see a dog race around the corner of the house and follow her to her car.
Mrs. Riordan poked at the fire, then settled back in her chair. "I can't look at you enough," she said.
He smiled, not as self-conscious as he might have been.
"Laura here's told me something about you, and I've your letter, but I'm sure there's more for you to tell."
He shrugged. "Not really. I grew up. Knocked about. A few years ago, I ran into a pretty young private detective. It seemed to be an interesting profession. She took me under her wing, taught me everything she knows, and that's what I do for a living."
"Just like Magnum," said his grandmother.
"More like Moonlighting," Laura suggested.
"And isn't it a bit of an odd profession for a girl?"
Laura shrugged. "It's pretty adventurous," she said. "I like it."
"And are you often out catching the criminals, or do you more arrange grand reunions like this one?"
"A little of both," Laura hedged.
"I should think it's a fine thing, then, especially when you can bring a family together."
Laura smiled and settled back in the deep chair.
Mrs. Riordan poured more tea. "Will you not have some more cake? There's a roast in the oven, but it'll be a while before it's done, and I don't want you fading away on me."
"Thank you," said Laura. The homemade cake was rich, and she wondered how quickly while under his grandmother's roof she could put on the ten pounds Remington and her doctor suggested.
Mrs. Riordan smiled at her. "And what about your people, Laura?"
"Me?" She swallowed. "I have a sister, a brother-in-law, two nieces and a nephew."
"And your parents?"
A touchy subject, but one she expected. "My father's gone," she said. "But my mother lives back east. In Connecticut."
"I can see she's raised a grand girl. She must be very proud indeed."
Laura opened her mouth, but could find nothing to say.
"Naturally, she is," said Remington, to the rescue.
They chatted awhile longer, and the smell of the roast began to waft into the room. Mrs. Riordan stood up.
"I've got to check on the meat. Will you bring in your bags? I'll show you your room, and you can settle yourselves a bit."
"Shall we?" he asked.
"Sure," Laura agreed.
They went out into the silvery autumn light. Remington unlocked the trunk and began to set down suitcases.
"Okay so far?" she asked.
"Okay so far," he agreed.
She straightened his collar. "Looking good," she said.
"Tell me the truth, Laura," he said. "If I suddenly appeared out of nowhere, showed up on your doorstep -- "
"Wouldn't be able to keep my hands off you." She grinned. "But that's your grandmother, and she's seeing you with other eyes. She sees that something good has come out of her family tragedy. She sees a nice young man who's done well for himself, and does her credit."
She nodded. "Yes."
He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. "All right then. Once more into the breach."
There was more tea to warm them up, and a tour of the house and the garden. Laura, in order to leave her husband alone with his grandmother, excused herself to go back up to the guest room and unpack and rest a little.
She'd actually fallen asleep when a slammed door put her on her feet again.
Investigating downstairs, she found Mrs. Riordan returning a picture to the mantelpiece.
"Where's Remington?" she asked.
"Gone out for a bit of air."
"Oh, no," said Laura.
The old lady held her arm. "Let him go, girl," she told her. "He'll be fine, I think."
"He has -- moods," Laura agreed.
"Aye, and in that he takes after his granddad. My own Jim could turn a sunny day to rain, just with his dark looks. On such a day as that, he sent my Mary away. She'd come home, you see, to say she couldn't marry the lad, for he was in prison." She shook her head. "Oh, the bitter words that were spoke. Jim said he'd not be shamed by such a low woman as went with criminals, held not have the younger girls exposed to bad influences. Well, she was a strong one, my Mary. Strong in her soul, in her mind. She left. Not a word nor a tear. We never saw her again."
Remington's grandmother seemed bowed, suddenly, under the weight of this memory. Taking her hand, Laura stroked it.
"I know how families are," she said. "No one knows better how to hurt you than your own family."
"Aye, there's truth in that. Well, of course he repented, and we tried to find her. When at last we did -- her brother hunted through Shannon, and then Dublin until he found her -- she was dead, and the child gone. They'd made a mistake, you see; they thought she wanted to give him up, and after she died, they didn't try to find us."
"But she didn't," said Laura, "want to give him away, did she?"
"Lord, no. There was a girl she shared a flat with. Said she was sure the lad in question planned to come for her, as soon as he was let out. There were even some letters. But of course, the high officials paid no heed."
"And you didn't know who he was?"
"Nay," Mrs. Riordan replied. "Just a lad, I suppose, got himself and her in trouble, and couldn't get back out. But you say he found him."
"Yes." Laura perched on the arm of the sofa. "Daniel Chalmers spent a long time searching for his son, but when he found him, he was half grown up and had a deep, deep anger for the man he felt abandoned his mother. He didn't know much, but he knew one thing: that his mother had him alone. He hated the idea of a father, he wanted to kill him.
"Well, Daniel was something of a psychologist. He took Remington under his wing, got him off the streets, gave him a better way of life, sort of."
"A bit on the shady side, was he?" asked Remington's shrewd grandmother.
"Yes," Laura admitted. "A bit."
"I thought as much. But a good man, you say?"
"Better than I thought," said Laura. "I didn't like him much at first. I guess because my life was very orderly, and I was trying to make him, Remington, fit into it, and every time Daniel showed up, life just went straight out of control."
Remington's grandmother was smiling.
Laura hesitated, then went on with the story. "A long time later, he confessed to me at least part of what happened, and -- I could feel for him. All those years he never told Remington who he was, but he tried to reconcile him with who his father might have been, until finally, Remington tried to search himself."
"And he never revealed himself in all that time?"
"Just before he died, I persuaded him to tell him. And all he said was that there had been a girl, an exquisite lady, he said, who would have changed his life if held had the sense to straighten up and stay with her."
"Aye, changed all our lives. They told us we couldn't search, you see. They couldn't say who had him, even though it was a mistake. But I know those Steeles were dreadful people, to abandon a child they'd chosen."
"The Steeles?" Laura repeated.
"Their name wasn't Steele," said Laura. "I don't know what it was, who they were. If he knows, he hasn't told me. Remington Steele is -- a name he took for himself, to please himself."
"Is it indeed? But a fine name it is, grand sounding."
Laura smiled. "It describes him very well, doesn't it?" she said. "He looks just like a Remington Steele."
Mrs. Riordan reached out a hand to her hair. "You're a fine girl," she said, "to be so understanding of him."
"Oh," said Laura. "He's -- very understanding of my problems, too."
"A man needs a good woman, and she a good man. I had one in my Jim, in spite of everything. I suppose in these modern days, I wouldn't have listened to him. I'd've made him let her stay, but back then, he was the head of the house, you know."
Laura nodded. "I know," she said.
They began clearing away the tea things. Laura picked up some cups and followed Mrs. Riordan into the kitchen. Through the window, she could see her husband sitting on a low wall in the garden.
Leaving the cups in the sink, she caught a shawl from its peg by the door and went out.
He didn't turn as she approached; drawing the shawl about her more closely, she waited in silence for a long time. Finally, she put a hand on his shoulder.
"Hey," she said.
He didn't speak, but his hand came up to cover hers.
Laura leaned against him. "How're you doing?" she whispered.
"Did you see her, Laura?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No."
"I haven't given much thought to her in all these years. My father. Always my father."
"You weren't angry at her, though, were you?"
"You knew she was dead; she couldn't help that. It was your father who abandoned you, your father you hated. That was something that was somebody's fault."
He gave a short laugh. "And then it turns out it wasn't really his fault after all. He hadn't really abandoned me. He was the one who'd done me the most good, next to you."
"You sorry we came?"
"What? No, no, of course not. It's just -- a bit overwhelming."
She put her arms around him and rested her chin on his shoulder.
"I love you," she said.
"Yes," he replied. "Thank God for that." He turned and took her in his arms, breathing in the warm, familiar scent of her hair. "Where would I be without you, eh? My God, sometimes when I think of what things would be like if I'd never met you --"
"Shh, no," she whispered. "It scares me, too."
"When I think," he went on, "of all the stupid things I've done -- Daniel told me how he was so in love with my mother, but instead of taking her and heading for the hills like you'd expect, he had to pull one more job. One more scam, and look what it cost him. Look what it cost."
"I think we've all of us made some bad decisions," she countered. "Maybe not that strikingly bad, but enough to hurt. There's no point flogging ourselves over it."
"No," he agreed.
"And I told you, I can be selfish. I can be glad it worked out this way, because otherwise, I might never have met you. So let's be happy."
"God, how I love you, Laura."
"Yes," she answered. "How I love you."
They held each other for a long time. Finally, Laura drew back and said, "Wanna take a walk?"
"Check out the neighborhood? See what's up?"
He agreed. As they went past the back door, Laura popped into the kitchen.
"Mrs. Riordan," she said. "We thought we'd go for a walk. Can I wear this?"
"Sure, and you make it all the prettier. But if you'll be going through the town, maybe you'd be kind enough to pick up a pound of butter."
"Of course. Anything else?"
"Well, long as you're out, some vanilla bean. And I don't know, anything else you might see She took down a mug from the shelf and began to count money from it.
Laura reached out and put the cup, and the money, back on the shelf. "How do we get to the market?" she asked.
Mrs. Riordan pointed out the open door. "There's a little lane next the house, here. You go down to the stile, and then head left across the field. Then you'll be at the main road, and go left again, and there's the town."
"We'll find it." Laura went out again to where Steele was waiting at the gate.
Hand in hand, they followed the lane past fields golden in the waning autumn light. The air was crisp, and Laura wrapped the shawl more tightly around her.
When they came to the stile, he went up first and lifted her over. This was rather like their old days in Ireland, and it brought the magic upon them; soon they were happy and laughing again.
As they passed a school, he said, "You've never asked me about my education."
"I never needed to." She smiled, hands deep in her pockets. "You seem perfectly well-educated to me. You look nice; you speak well; you picked up the work fast enough. That's all I need to know."
"No qualms about a lack of university education?"
"None at all."
"No qualms about a possible lack of high school education?"
They had never discussed this. Sometimes, when some little trick she'd learned watching Mr. Wizard saved the day, he made some quip about her university education, but it was only a quip, never the sort of remark made by a bitter or envious person, just the sort of easy going banter they exchanged most of the time. Sometimes he passed himself off as a Cambridge graduate, and certainly no one was the wiser if he wasn't.
She stopped and pulled him to a halt. "Nothing about you suggests that we're not equals in every way," she told him. "I hope you can say the same about me."
"In all honesty, I can't," he replied. "But I think it serves a man well to have a wife who's a bit better than he is. Keeps him on his toes as he treads the straight and narrow."
Then he caught her up in his arms and set her onto the next wall.
By the time they arrived at the grocer's, it was near to closing time.
"Ah, wait just a moment, my good man," said Remington, catching the door before it closed. "We're in dire need of a pound of butter and some vanilla beans. Won't take but a minute of your time."
"Come in, then."
It was an old fashioned little store, dark, things stacked on the shelves and tucked away in corners. Laura prowled in search of the elusive vanilla bean, while Remington inspected the refrigerated case for a suitable pound of butter.
Laura set the little jar of vanilla on the counter, and the grocer rang it up.
"Anything else?" he asked.
"I don't know," she said. "Do you think we should get anything else?"
"Maybe groceries for a week?"
"We couldn't carry it," she protested.
"Next time, then. That's all for now."
The grocer totaled it up. "Two pounds three," he said.
Remington counted it out.
The grocer tossed the coins in the drawer. "You wouldn't be Remington Steele now, would you, sir?" he asked, putting the groceries in a sack.
"I am indeed, sir, am indeed."
"I knew it. Bloke like you, looking just like Mary Rose herself, travelling in the company of a lovely American girl -- who else could it be?"
"They don't need detectives around here," said Laura, sotto voce.
"Did you know Miss Riordan?" asked Remington.
"Two sisters in the same class at school. Uncommon girl, she was. Hair like coal, eyes bluer than water." He sighed. "Me just a kid," he said, as if to explain why he hadn't lived in pursuit of Mary Rose.
"Indeed," said Remington. "I've seen her picture. She was very lovely."
"Lovely indeed," the grocer agreed. "So we'll be seeing more of you in these parts."
Remington nodded. "Mrs. Steele and I'll be staying awhile."
"Then it's good to see you, sir. A good night to you and your ladyship."
They walked part of the way back in the dark.
"What if we get lost?" she whispered, laughing, as they made their way over the first stile. "We'll be like Cathy and Heathcliff, wandering over the moors."
"Nonsense, Laura. There are no moors in Ireland."
Dinner was what dinner at one's grandmother's house ought to be: good and hot and filling, with second and third helpings urged on by someone one cannot refuse. It was easy to talk over a table laden with homemade delights.
Mrs. Riordan was eager to hear of Remington's life, but she understood that the life he had lived before Laura was not a topic of casual conversation. Trust had to be earned, confidence gained, and if it was painful to him to tell, she knew that she must wait, and so she learned about her granddaughter-in-law instead. Laura's upbringing, Laura's education, Laura's absent father and mildly neurotic sister and mother were all just as interesting to her, for through Laura, she was able to see the deeper bond that held them. Not just love, not just romance or passion had brought this pair together; there was as well the loss, in different degrees, of family, the struggle for belonging, the need for constancy and understanding, that everyone wants, but which seemed heightened in these two.
She'd brought out an iced cake for dessert by the time the conversation came round to how they met, and what they'd been doing since. His grandmother knew, through natural shrewdness and intuition, as well as the little bit she'd been told, that most of her grandson's life had been lived in tatters, and if not tatters, then not in the best of company. The high-line criminality of it wouldn't have surprised her; neither would she have been shocked if held turned up on her doorstep a low-life hoodlum. That he was now a fine, upstanding, successful young man was a blessing to her.
One thing was entirely clear: they were each interested in the other's good and happiness, and that she deemed the firmest of foundations.
She wanted to hear all about their wedding. "Ah, of course, you're newlyweds," she said. "Sure and I should have known. You haven't changed a day from what's in the picture."
The wedding portrait Remington had sent was prominently displayed in a silver frame on the mantelpiece.
They gave her the almost-true version. They'd come to believe this recitation themselves, because its potential accuracy dwelt on the subconscious level. If they hadn't been involved in a messy little power struggle for the two weeks prior to Immigration's ultimatum, if Remington hadn't allowed Laura to needle him a little more than usual, if he hadn't, deep in his heart, felt a dread that she would turn him down if he asked her, if he hadn't indulged his vanity in imagining Laura burning with jealousy, events would have proceeded quite nearly as they were recounted.
"We had to get married right away," Laura explained. "Remington's immigration status had lapsed, and the government gave him an impossible deadline: leave the country, marry an American, or be deported."
"Just like that? No notice at all?"
"Well, I'd been trying to work it out with them for some time, but certain parts of the American government are simply unreasonable."
"And they gave you but a day to marry or leave?"
"Ah - " said Remington.
"It was more than a day, wasn't it?" said Laura.
"Well, you know, every relationship has its ups and downs," he said blandly. "And Laura and I weren't exactly up at the moment. It would've been highly suspicious, especially to one of Laura's remarkable observational skills, for me to all of a sudden pop the question, and naturally I was hesitant to broach the subject of my imminent deportation
"So -- ?" Kathleen prompted.
"So he sort of rented a girl to pose as the bride," said Laura.
Remington looked pained.
"Naturally, I found out about it, and then he had to confess, didn't you, darling?"
"In my defense, I must say that Laura responded exactly as I'd feared."
"You couldn't have declined his proposal!" Mrs. Riordan exclaimed.
"At first," Laura admitted. "I would've preferred an engagement that lasted more than forty five minutes, but in the end, what else could I do?"
"Indeed," said Remington.
"I love the guy," said Laura.
"And so you were married that same day."
"Had to be, by six o'clock. And even then--" Remington began.
"We didn't have a real license," said Laura. "But fortunately, Remington has a friend who has a fishing boat."
"A Mexican fishing boat."
"-- so we sailed out into international waters and were married by the captain of the ship. Sort of."
"As you can see, it's all very complicated." Remington feared his grandmother was a bit dazed by this explanation. "To make a long story short, when we got to Ireland for the second half of our honeymoon, we decided we'd try it again with a few of the amenities."
"Ah, you were married in the Church, then."
"By a priest," said Remington, "but without the Mass. I wasn't brought up much in the Church."
"At all?" his grandmother said hopefully.
"A bit," he told her. "But it doesn't really matter, since Laura's a Presbyterian."
For the first time in her life, Laura felt a twinge of the awareness of prejudice on something other than sexual grounds. All of a sudden, she was a Protestant married into a good Catholic family.
It lasted only a moment. "I suppose your father was a Protestant," said his grandmother. "It's the way of things. That you're church-going at all, I should be glad."
Neither felt obliged to disabuse her of this notion. Remington fell back on the fact that he and Laura had attended Easter services together at a church where Laura was actually known by name by a minister who never forgot a face.
"You've got snaps of it all, I hope," she suggested.
"Lots," said Laura.
When dinner was cleared away, the pictures were spread all over the table. Remington had sorted through his box of press clippings, and brought a few of those along as well.
Mrs. Riordan picked up one and stared at it. "Renowned Investigator Slain," screamed the headline.
"Ah, not that one first," he said.
"But what's it mean?"
"Mistaken identity," said Laura. "Two friends were staying in Remington's apartment one weekend while we were in New York. They were murdered, and the bodies were -- misidentified."
"Dreadful!" She read further down the column. "What a terrible thing this is."
"This one matches it."
"Like the plot of a mystery novel, it was revealed today that the bodies found early Saturday morning in the Hancock Park apartment of famed detective Remington Steele were not those of Steele and his partner, Laura Holt. Steele and Holt were out of town when the victims, now identified as Freddie Lazenby and Jennifer Smith, apparently broke into the apartment in an attempt to flee their assailant. Police indicate that arrests have been made in the case, but no further information has been released."
"But how could they have mistaken --"
"Shotgun," said Laura, putting those clippings away and handing her another. "Why did you bring those, of all things?"
He shrugged. "Show it's not all glamour?"
The clipping Laura selected was much less shocking, and boasted a very nice photograph of the pair of them displaying a jewel case of royal lavulite gemstones.
"We do a lot of this," said Laura. "Security work. It's not very dangerous."
"Ah, I see. You make sure things get from here to there safely."
"Absolutely. Anything you like," said Remington. "Gems. Bonds. Children. No problem."
"Another long story, Mrs. Riordan." Laura began sorting through the pile of photos.
Mrs. Riordan picked up a snapshot. "And is this your mother, then?"
Laura craned around to look. "Oh, no. That's Mildred. Our indispensable secretary, assistant and legman."
"Private investigator's jargon," explained Remington. "A legman is someone who does legwork."
"Something our Remington is particularly averse to," smiled Laura.
"All the boring details," he went on. "Looking up records, checking facts, telephoning at all hours. Mildred loves it. She's a veritable whiz at the computer."
Mildred looked to Mrs. Riordan like a kindly soul who no doubt did her share of looking after as well.
"Now where was this taken?"
The sun was shining down on Laura and Remington in some exotic locale.
"Malta," said Laura.
"Now that I know is London. Oh, and there you are in Shannon. So close you were, and I never knew." She studied the picture, then laid it aside. "This would be your home, then, eh?"
"When was that?" asked Laura.
There was no notation on the back of the photo in which Laura and Remington sat on the sofa in his apartment, struggling with a bottle of champagne.
"Birthday," he guessed. "From the look of your hair, I'd say 1984."
"But who took it? Mildred?"
"Frances, I think."
"Your sister?" asked Mrs. Riordan. "Is she here?"
Laura surfaced, triumphant, with a picture that included Frances and Donald and Remington, who was draped with the three Piper children and looked not a bit the worse for it.
"Good with the kiddies, then, are you?" his grandmother asked with a wink. "And won't you be having enough cousins round here to wear you out!"
"How many, exactly?" asked Laura.
"Well, now. Christine and Jack's kids are all grown, and two of 'em have families themselves. Just little ones, you see. But Deirdre and Maeve's kids are still in school. Marve's my youngest, but Lord we couldn't believe it, when she had another one just two years past."
Pictures were brought in in a box to compare family resemblances. Maeve was the aunt who most resembled Steele's mother, and he laid out three pictures, of Maeve, of Mary Rose, and of himself.
Laura put her arm around his neck. "She was lovely," she said.
Mary Rose smiled out of a black and white school picture. Her eyes had that same twinkle; her hair was thick and shining; her smile quick and endearing.
Laura felt very sad, looking at her. Laying her head on her husband's shoulder, she held him, and he turned to kiss her hair.
"Laura said she had a rheumatic heart."
"Aye, that's what they told us. She'd had a fever as a child; they weren't surprised to hear it. But who could tell, one fever from another, that twenty years down the road it would kill her." Kathleen looked up. "I had a hundred pounds saved, secretlike, for a rainy day. I took my other girls up to Dublin, to the same doctor. I said, 'Here are her sisters. How is it with them?' Thank God, they were all well; I couldn't have stood to lose another."
Laura wondered how many children this woman had buried. There was quite a gap between Mary Rose and her next sister.
"Well," Mrs. Riordan continued, "he was very kind; he wouldn't take the money. And he felt badly, you see, that the hospital had sent you out and lost you to us."
There were a lot of pictures. Remington loved to pose, and for a long time, Laura had thought it was strictly vanity. As time went on, she began to realize that his was an entirely undocumented life, and this flurry of picture taking, this willingness to be snapped any old time, was a way of proving that he had existed. He had no baby pictures, no school pictures, no graduation portrait. No crowd of pals surrounded him in any picture he had until he met Laura. Probably, though, she thought, they could find a few on the police books in any one of a dozen countries.
She remembered how carefully he had chosen the wedding photographer; he had actually called references and gone to see the man's work.
That was how he had spent their last Saturday morning in Ireland, while Mildred had gone with Laura to find a wedding dress. Mildred was all for as much lace and glitter as could be had and Laura, in fact, began to wish she had sent Mildred along to vet the picture taker.
Knowing that this would be no cathedral ceremony with hundreds of guests, Laura chose a little suit of cream colored wool. The elegantly draped peplum jacket closed with two pearl buttons at the waist, and the seamstress promised to have it perfectly altered by Sunday evening.
"Shall I bring it by your hotel, Madam?" she asked.
"I'm not staying in Dublin," said Laura. "I'm in Glenn Cree. At Ashford Castle."
"Sure, then you must be the American lady who came with the new lord," exclaimed the seamstress.
"Yes," Laura reluctantly agreed.
"But I was given to understand that you were already man and wife, if I'm not being too forward."
"Civil ceremony," said Laura. "In Los Angeles."
It all became clear, and the woman smiled. "And now you'd like it done again, festive. Well, then, I'd be pleased to bring it out to you, ma'am. If it's convenient. And I can make any little changes on the spot. I'll bring my portable."
From the dress shop, they'd gone to find shoes, and from the shoe shop, they were directed to a milliner's. There, Laura sat and tried on hats for an hour that saw Mildred looking at little more than her watch.
Briefly losing sight of her purpose, Laura bought several chapeaux that had nothing to do with the wedding at all; then she got back to business and narrowed her main choices to two: a little cap festooned with flowers and lace that sat back on the head, and a jaunty pillbox with a close veil that fitted under the chin. Mildred, at last given a job to do, took Polaroids of Mrs. Steele in each hat, and the pictures were carefully compared. The veiled pillbox had no competition.
Mildred had bought a wedding planner for Laura, which Laura at first looked upon as a joke. As the day wore on, however, she began to value its little hints and the checklist in the back.
"Dress?" said Mildred, as they stood on the Dublin street corner. "Check," said Laura.
"Veil?" said Mildred.
"Hat," said Laura.
"Stockings!" Yes, Laura might have forgotten all sorts of essentialswithout the help of her faithful secretary and her trusty wedding planner.
Everyone in Ireland seemed to be friendly and helpful. Often, everyclerk in the shop, and even some of the customers, would come round to help Laura with her selection. The color of the bridal stockings was a matter of grave concern to three young women in the department store. They had the shoes out of the box, and the tiny swatch of fabric clipped from the hem of the suit, and set about trying to coordinate them. White, it was decided, was too white; beige was too beige, vanilla was too yellow. Boxes were hauled out of the stock room, and at last the correct color was found.
The book suggested buying at least four pairs, in case of disaster in the dressing room, the church, or at the reception. Laura dutifully bought four pairs, thinking it was nearly spring and she could wear them somewhere else, anyway.
Next on the list was appropriate undergarments.
"Appropriate undergarments?" said Laura.
"Here it is: Backless, strapless bra -- "
"Only if your dress is made of lace, which mine isn't."
"Petticoat or slip, garters, waist cincher, etc."
Mildred looked at her over the book. "You're going to need something to hold up those stockings."
"I have something to hold up the stockings."
"Something gorgeous?" asked Mildred.
"Mildred," said Laura, glancing around to see if this conversation was attracting any attention.
"Come on, hon," said Mildred. "You got married so fast, you didn't have time to comb your hair. You've been hounded by Immigration and secret agents and homicidal dames ever since. You haven't taken ten minutes for yourself to go out and buy slinky stuff."
"I'll have you know I have plenty of slinky stuff," Laura announced defensively.
"Brand new? Just out of the box? Just for him?"
Laura stopped walking. Her warning look had two stages: the intimidation stage, which was sufficient to ward off all but the stouthearted, and the terminal stage, which brooked no quarrel.
Mildred was stouthearted. "Come on," she said. "Let's see what they've got. Must be some place around here that sells sexy woolies."
There was, in fact, just such a shop, where Laura, once in the door, was seduced by the call of the satin and lace which had been so far excluded from the wedding ensemble.
Mildred surfaced from behind the counter with a leopard-skin bra and panties.
Laura blinked. "Not exactly my style," she said.
"How about this?"
Tiger-striped was worse.
"Can you get into the spirit a little?" begged Mildred, wondering if the leopard-skin came in her size.
"I am in the spirit," answered Laura, who had been collecting a tidy pile of things she liked.
"Prove it," said Mildred.
"Go on. Prove it." Mildred wanted evidence of heavy-duty romance. Rising to the challenge, Laura pulled a fully boned, strapless, white lace bustier from the bottom of the stack. Four garters, embellished with tiny blue bows, dangled from the bottom; fifty hooks ran up the back. Mildred whistled softly. "Okay, kid," she said. "I can see you didn't need me along on this trip after all."
They had tea in a little shop, then Laura sent Mildred home with the packages. At half past three, Remington looked in.
Laura picked up her purse; he came in and pushed her back down in her chair.
"Cup, please," he said to the waiter.
"Exhausting day?" she asked. She'd been under the impression that they'd be in a rush.
"A bit, yes. You?"
He thanked the waitress who came with the cup and poured the tea.
"How were the pictures?"
"All excellent. Man definitely has a flair. Gave him carte blanche. Assistant for snaps at the church, and the great man himself for the portraits back at the castle."
"Sounds good. We'll have plenty to show Miss Lynch when we get back."
"And our friends, eh? Your family. Newspapers."
"Right. So we're finished with the paperwork?"
"Oh, yes. We can be legally married any time."
"Good." She smiled, then laughed. "That's funny. 'Legally married.'"
"Well, as opposed to what we are now."
"I think we could make it stand up in a common law state."
He held his teacup halfway to the saucer. Glancing about, nervously almost, he finally set it down and met her eye.
"I know none of this was done properly," he said. "Not at all the way I would've wanted it. And now, like your American sports stars, I'm trying to play catch-up."
She shrugged. "It's been an adventure," she said. "What more could a girl ask for?"
"I don't know, exactly," he said. "But I know I wish I'd given you more. More of myself, more -- things done the right way."
"You know me, Mr. Steele," she replied lightly. "I like to do things differently."
"Yes, well, not too differently." Reaching for her hand, he looked into her eyes and said, "Miss Holt, would you do me the very great honor of being my wife?"
She caught his mood; he was serious and sincere. She put her other hand over his. "Yes, Mr. Steele," she whispered.
After a moment, a grin spread slowly over his face. It was as if held been really nervous, as if held doubted her, wondered about her reply.
He pulled a small box from his pocket and flipped it open. It contained no ordinary ring. The diamond, a substantial stone, was bezel set, surrounded on each side by an open teardrop loop, brightened with tinier diamonds. He turned it so she could see the inside.
The engraving was just large enough to be read unaided.
" 'Engaged to you since the day we met,'" she read. Her eyes, when she raised them, were a little misty.
"Entirely true," he said.
"Fateful day," she agreed.
He turned to practical matters. "You said you didn't much care for those matched wedding sets," he said. "And I thought you'd like to have something to wear more than three days. On Tuesday, you can just shift it over to your other hand."
"It's beautiful," she said.
"Like it's wearer."
She drew him to her and put her arms around his neck.
The jeweler held selected smiled from behind the counter. "Back again, Mr. Steele," he said.
"With my lovely bride."
"We're all ready for you. I have our best selection right back here." The jeweler led them to the rear of the shop where a little alcove held a low table and two comfortable chairs. When the Steeles were seated, Mr. Feeney's assistant brought out a case and set it on the table.
"Mr. Steele gave me to understand that your preference was for the plain gold band, ma'am," Mr. Feeney said.
Laura glanced at Remington. "Yes, I think so."
"These are the very best. The height of the jeweler's art. You see, ma'am, even a plain gold band, in the hands of the craftsman, becomes a work of art. The balance, the curve, how it fits the hand. They can be made cheaply, or they can be made well."
"I took the liberty of adding in a few that have -- shall we say artistic? -- embellishments. For the sake of variety." He opened the box with a flourish.
Inside, twenty pairs of gold bands lay nestled against blue velvet. Some were utterly plain, some had braided or beaded edges. Some were wide, others slim.
Feeney noted Laura's bemused look. "Now, if you don't mind my saying so, I've seen many a young couple pass through this ritual, and there's a simple way of dealing with it. If you look them all over, pay close attention; then each of you pick out two or three -- just in your heads, mind. Once you've decided, point them out to me. You'd be truly amazed how many times it's the same three sets that are picked."
"What if there are six different sets?"
"Then we advise taking another look at your beloved." Mr. Feeney chuckled.
"Wonderful Irish sense of humor, eh, Laura?" asked Remington, a bit too heartily.
Laura studied the contents of the case. She knew at once what she didn't want, and turned her attention to the rest. She stole a glance at Remington and found his eyes on her.
"Ready?" he asked.
She pointed out three pairs: plain gold bands, very slim gold bands with grooved edges, and platinum bands with beaded gold borders.
His choice coincided with hers twice; his third selection was a pair of wide bands with no trim.
Laura looked at the rings, then at him. Then she held up her hand, fingers delicately spread, and looked at him again. Remington looked at her hand, then at the rings. "Too heavy?" he asked.
"Too heavy," she agreed.
He signaled Mr. Feeney to put the heavier set away.
"Unless you really like them," she said suddenly.
He shook his head. "Just a whim."
Mr. Feeney closed the lid. "Will you be trying these on, then?"
"I don't know," said Laura. "Is it bad luck?" She hunted through her handbag for the wedding planner, which Mildred had apparently taken home with her.
"How can it be bad luck?" Remington demanded. "We're already married."
"You're so right, dear," said Laura. She tried the plain gold band, turning her hand in the light.
Mr. Feeney, with the finesse of a stage manager, arranged Remington's hand on a velvet pad, then laid Laura's over it so that both rings were showing. Their hands were reflected in a gilt mirror.
"Okay," said Laura. "Next?"
They tried the slender bands with the impressed borders. Laura studied the look in the mirror.
"Can I wear it around a minute?" asked Laura, getting to her feet. "Just around the shop. I'll leave Mr. Steele as collateral."
Remington smiled at Mr. Feeney, but he had a feeling that her words were not a casual pleasantry. He entertained the idea, briefly, of Laura staging a grand heist -- making off with the gold ring and whatever else she could lay her hands on, and leaving him with the ... He shook his head.
Laura wandered over to one of the other cases and looked in at earrings, then on to ropes of pearls and bracelets. She drifted back to the earrings, glancing down now and again at her left hand. The engagement ring held so recently put on her finger sparkled on the other.
When she came back, Remington was already admiring the platinum and gold style. Mr. Feeney exchanged rings for her; their hands fell naturally into position on the velvet.
"I've become rather fond of this one," said Remington.
"Have you?" she asked. She stroked his hand absently with her thumb as she studied the reflection. Then she got up and went to look at the rest of the wares.
There were anniversary rings, and engagement rings, and cocktail rings, and signet rings.
"See something you like?" asked Remington from behind her.
"I'm wearing it," she replied.
"Oh, Mr. Steele," she said. "What makes you think I'm shopping for myself?"
When she came back, she put the ring on the counter. "I don't think I've seen a ring like this before."
"It's distinctive indeed. The platinum, you see," said Mr. Feeney. "It isn't everyone who can work with it, nor everyone who can afford it."
"What if they need to be re-sized? Will it be hard to find someone to do it?"
"Nay, not if you know a reputable jewelry man. Be sure first that they to sell the platinum rings at all, and then you'll be home free. A place like that Los Angeles, should be easy."
"Have we decided?" asked Remington.
The ring, on her hand, and on his, looked perfect. It described them, in a way: entirely separate, complete opposites in so many ways, but bound together somehow, linked, one to the other, and inseparable.
"You know how I like to be different," she told him.
Mr. Feeney produced a ring sizer, made careful notations on a card, promised to deliver the rings by Monday afternoon, and handed the bill to his assistant. The young man led them to the register.
Remington handed over his credit card. Laura turned away from the clerk and leaned closer to her husband.
"Do you really consider this an agency expense?" she asked.
"Just in case someone from you know where asks for receipts, if you know what I mean, I wouldn't want them to get the wrong idea."
He snatched back the agency card and exchanged it for his personal one. "Excellent point, Mrs. Steele."
They were halfway down the street when something suddenly occurred to her. "Here," she said, thrusting a five pound note into his hand. "I'm starved. Order us something, okay, and I'll be right back."
When he was safely inside the pub, she turned and ran back to the jeweler's.
"Hi," she said to Mr. Feeney. "I forgot to leave an inscription for Mr. Steele's ring."
"Sure, and I thought you'd be phoning us with it," he smiled. He gave her a clean sheet of paper and a pen.
She printed the words quickly and handed it back. "I'd also like to buy a pair of cufflinks and a tie bar, please."
"And have you in mind already what you want?" he asked. She pointed them out in the case, gave him a credit card, and glanced at her watch.
"This doesn't look too suspicious, does it?" she asked.
"Where were you leaving him?"
"Pub down the street."
"The Lyre and Tail?" he said. "Begging your pardon, your ladyship, but he'll have forgotten all about you in a minute, the way the boys are throwing the darts about down there."
Laura slipped the two boxes into her purse and went out.
The wedding was arranged for Tuesday at eleven o'clock, to be followed by a wedding feast at Ashford Castle. The photographer had promised Steele that he would be at the castle early to set up in an historic room beforehand, and that he would shoot pictures for as long as they liked.
Mikeline was in charge of organizing the reception, to which the Steeles were inviting the entire village. All the ground floor rooms were to be opened, lest the day be damp and the crowd large, and the cooks were already busy with lists and batches of things that could be made beforehand. Mikeline hired the best musicians he knew, all, coincidentally, relatives of varying degree, and laid in a tremendous quantity of food. The liquor had already been delivered.
"Now, Mikeline," said Remington, walking him down to the wine cellar. "When the guests first arrive, they'll be drinking Miss Krebbs' very nice California punch. That should keep everyone happy while her ladyship and I are busy with the photographer."
"Miss Krebbs has done me the honor of permitting me to taste a preliminary stirring of the concoction, your lordship, and the man who can't be made happy by the stuff is a sad man indeed."
Remington leaned on a wooden case. "This is very excellent French champagne. We pour this, for the toasts."
"Ah, I see, sir, yes."
"This," Remington went on, "is very good French champagne. We pour this next, eh?"
"Indeed we do."
"And then," he finished, "when everyone is good and sloshed, we bring out the porter and anything else we might find."
"You're a genius indeed, your lordship," beamed Mikeline.
There was a lady's boudoir in the west wing where Laura planned to sleep Monday night. She and Mildred laid out the wedding clothes on Sunday.
"Something old?" said Mildred, checklist in hand.
"Check. Something new?"
"Check. Something borrowed?"
Laura paused and looked around.
"Don't worry. I got something for you." Mildred made a note. "Something blue?"
The g-string that came with the bustier tied at the sides with little blue laces, and the garters had a touch of blue in them as well. "Check," said Laura.
"Already in the shoe."
"Check." Mildred gave the place the once over. "Well, you're all set. What about him?"
"Mr. G.Q.?" smiled Laura. "Are you kidding?"
The tailor was in fact at that moment closeted with Mr. Steele. Out of concern for his reputation, he had brought the suit over "after Mass, you understand," to make sure the alterations were proceeding properly. Everything matched specifications, and he went away again, promising the finished product before noon the next day.
"I'll be sorry to leave," said Remington as they strolled in the garden.
Laura buttoned another button on her sweater. "Yes," she agreed.
He put his arm around her. "We can always come back. Mikeline told me that they really don't feel like they own the place. They're the caretakers, he said, looking after the manor while the lord and lady are away."
"Indeed. But it's miraculous what a bit of autonomy did for the indebtedness of the place."
"I'm sure." She stopped and looked up at the vast edifice. "It's strange, the way things happen, isn't it?" she said. "The earl barely knew you, and he left you all this."
"The earl," he answered, "was a very unhappy man."
"They had a baby, did you know that?"
He nodded. "Four months old."
She shuddered involuntarily. "Kiss me," she said.
He turned and took her in his arms. The vision of the young widowed countess, child in her arms, faded slowly.
They were married in the little church in Glenn Cree, and entertained the town at their reception. Then they left Ireland and spent their second wedding night on the train to London, making love in the first class compartment.
The pictures were left scattered on the table as they repaired to the parlor for more leisurely chat.
Her eyes snapped open.
Mrs. Riordan smiled at her. "Poor dear girl, you must be exhausted."
"No, I'm fine," she said, sitting up. Her head felt very heavy.
"Wouldn't you like to go on up to bed?"
"No, really, I'm fine."
Remington kissed her hair. Soon enough she was dozing on his shoulder again. He moved away from her, and she slipped down to pillow her head on his thigh. He reached over and pulled her shoes off; Mrs. Riordan threw an afghan over her.
"There we are," said Remington. "Now that she's nice and settled ..."
"Such a pretty little thing," said his grandmother. "Amazing it is to think that she'd undertake this grand scheme and with so little to go on."
"She's quite a girl," he agreed.
"You'd've never been found otherwise."
"No," he said. He caressed Laura's hair, dark in the lamplight. "She was sick this summer," he added. "Had to stay in bed. So she wrote a lot of letters to fill her time."
"Sick, was she? With what? She's all right now?"
"Oh, yes. Yes, she's fine. It was a sudden thing, a bad infection. We caught it in time. Tends to be a bit on the thin side, tends to wear herself out, but I'm taking her in hand."
"There's a good man."
They enjoyed a nice long talk. His grandmother told him about his aunts and uncles and cousins, and about his grandfather.''
"Does it disturb you, to talk about her?" he asked, hesitantly.
"About my Mary Rose? Surely not!" she said. "Though you're a sweet lad to think of asking." She counted the stitches stretched down from her crochet hook. "You forget, my dear, that this is all gone thirty some years, and time does make it easier. All the easier indeed, for the happy ending you've given it. I know my poor beauty's happy in heaven to know you've been found and brought to know us."
"What was she like?" he asked suddenly.
"Ah, what was she like?" Toying with the ball of yarn, she finally set it down and looked at him. "She was a quiet girl, but lively as well. She knew the time and the place, you might say. She wanted to see the world, had it all mapped out, but she only got as far as London."
"She fell in love," he said.
"Aye, I suppose."
"He loved her," he said, in Daniel's defense. "My father, I mean. He didn't abandon her."
"Oh, I know. She's told me all about it, your young bride. She didn't think much of him, at first, but the truth seemed to explain away some of her doubts."
"Laura has very high -- shall we say ethical -- standards."
"But a soft heart as well, I know. And I'm sure things would have been all very different, if this Chalmers hadn't been working the shady side of the street."
"Grandmother," he said. "I have to balance my life before with what I have now. I can't say I wish it had been different, because that would have kept me from ever knowing Laura."
"Would it have, indeed? Some things I think the angels have planned all along, and who's to say you two mightn't have met somewhere, somehow? But even so, you have to have faith, don't you see, that there's a reason for everything, that there's a purpose. It seemed senseless to me, that she died and we couldn't find you, but perhaps it was to teach us a firmer faith." Her eyes rested on Laura's peaceful face as she slept. "Aye, there's a purpose, and a plan to it. I suspect that she needs you as much as you need her, seeing as how her father turned out to be no good. The man that'd leave two little girls is no man at all. So you have to be steady with her, you see. Have to take good care. But I can see you have." She smiled approvingly. "Seeing her through sickness, as you've done. If you look after each other, the good Lord'll look after you."
Simple faith bad seen this woman through a hard life, and Remington, who had personal philosophies of his own, respected hers.
He hated to wake Laura up, and briefly entertained the thought of carrying her to bed. Deciding that she might not appreciate the gesture, he shook her shoulder gently.
"Come on, darling," he said. "Time for bed."
"What?" She blinked and looked at her watch, which claimed that it was two hours later than she thought it was. "Why didn't you wake me up?"
"Because, my love," he replied, pulling her to her feet, "you've been driving for two days, and I didn't want to disturb you."
"I'm sorry," she said to Mrs. Riordan. "I don't usually go away like that."
Mrs. Riordan put an arm around her. "Of course you don't, my dear. It can't be easy coming all this way; takes it out of you, the travelling does. A good night's sleep's what you need, in a real bed, that's all, and you'll be fine."
She stayed to make sure they had enough blankets. She pulled two more out just in case, and showed Laura where she kept the extra towels and linens.
"Are you all settled then?" she asked.
"Yes, thanks," said Laura.
Remington, passing his grandmother in the hall, bent to kiss her cheek; she pressed his hand and went on to her room.
There was one bathroom on the upper floor. Laura washed quickly and brushed her teeth and, shivering, put on her heavy nightgown. Remington was already in bed, and lifted the covers for her.
"Quick!" he said.
She got in beside him and sank deep into the feather bed.
"All right?" he asked, as she snuggled closer.
"Yes," she answered. Her hands, though, were like ice; he chafed them between his own and kissed them and put his arms around her.